California End-of-Life option not a simple process

As of June, Californians have access to aid-in-dying methods in theory if not exactly in practice.

California’s End-of-Life Option Act includes a considerable list of challenges for both doctors and patients including a requirement to make multiple oral and written requests for  life-ending drugs and a 48-hour notice after taking the medication.

The act also stipulates that the drugs be taken by the patient without assistance from anyone. Further, two doctors must confirm the patient’s status as a California resident, their diagnosis, prognosis and ability to make medical decisions for themselves. 

In an article on the law on Kaiser Health News Sarah Hooper, executive director of UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy dryly notes that “This will not be an on-demand service.”

“The patient has to jump through a lot of hoops before accessing the prescription.”

The challenges are compounded by some doctors who decline to take part in the process thus requiring patients to seek out alternate providers. When one does find a doctor willing to write the prescription, there is still the cost of the meds themselves which can be expensive. Complicating it even more is the reality that not all insurance providers cover that cost.

From my point-of-view as an elder law attorney, I’m glad to see that governments are becoming responsive to the needs of their citizens in controlling how they want to end their lives with dignity.

It’s not a big surprise that regulations are so stringent as these laws come into place. Given the hysterical screeds about death panels from politicians a few years back, it’s fortunate that they are in place at all.

Here’s hoping that the process gets easier even as the laws ensure that end-of-life procedures are used responsibly and carefully.

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